Rio exceeding expectations as Paralympics capture the imagination

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If the first few days of the Paralympics are anything to go by, Rio is well on the way to exceeding expectations.  This feat is made all the more remarkable given the well documented build up to the games, which was troubled to say the least.  All of that though seems a world away with busy stadiums, storming performances from Paralympics GB and excellent media coverage of events in Rio.

We are also arguably seeing to see the proof of the London Paralympic legacy, as exemplified by the emergence of Ellie Robinson.  Inspired by watching her namesake Simmonds perform on the global stage, the Northampton youngster took a remarkable gold with a maturity way beyond her years.  What is also notable is the continued emphasis on sport, with our athletes recognised for their world class sporting accomplishments in their own terms, which is the way it should be.

People have also wanted to know more about the athlete behind the sporting success.  I was fortunate enough to be asked onto the Victoria Derbyshire show to talk about the accomplishments of Ollie Hynd.  This desire to know more about the story behind the sporting success demonstrates the wider potential the Paralympics has to build awareness of disability related issues.  The swimmer in question sums it up when he says “its about ability not disability” and I totally agree.  Some of what we have seen represents our abilities as a human race to maximise our capacity for what we can do, irrespective of circumstance and the challenges we face.

There are still issues to address and questions to be tackled away from these games themselves.  The issue of whether the Paralympics can represent a full spectrum of disability is a thorny one which will not go away.  Particularly for athletes with more significant impairments, this one is a pressing issue of concern.  With the places and number of lower classification places ever under pressure, this issue is one that is in need of attention. Likewise, the issue of classification also needs seriously revisiting, with Channel 4 pundit Marc Woods commenting that some athletes were ‘right on the edge’ of their respective groups hinting at more serious issues to be addressed post Rio.

For now though let us continue to enjoy what we see before us.  Channel 4 coverage is doing a fantastic job of bringing the games home to us all, especially given the cuts they have faced as part of the aforementioned troubled build up to the games.  Other broadcasters and the printed media are also following the lead of the GB broadcaster, making the Paralympics be seen on a bigger scale than ever before.  There can be no question that the games is growing overall.

So keep watching, keep asking questions and keep appreciating the talent you see before you.  Thousands of hours of preparation have gone into getting the athletes here, and we’re also seeing the importance and value of lottery funding in the success of Paralympics GB.  Long may we all have such a wealth of sporting talent to cheer on.


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About the Author

Chris Whitaker was born and grew up in Cheshire, arriving in the world with cerebral palsy after a complex childbirth. Apparently, he was lucky to be here at all and has tried to make the most of life ever since! Chris has worked in the third sector for a few years now and is also a charity trustee. Making a positive difference every day is what drives him and he gets to see the impact the third sector makes. Chris has also been able to use his own lived experience as a disabled person to make an input into his working life.

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